Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beaking the silence on Israeli war crimes

Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence has published a new report [PDF] in which Israeli soldiers describe in their own words the war crimes they perpetrated on Palestinian civilians during Israel's recent bombing of Gaza. From the summary in the Independent:

The first eye-witness accounts of the war by serving Israeli reservists and conscripts describes the Israeli use of Palestinian civilians as "human shields". They detail the killing of at least two civilians, the vandalism, looting and wholesale destruction of Palestinian houses, the use of deadly white phosphorus, bellicose religious advice from army rabbis and what another battalion commander described to his troops as "insane firepower with artillery and air force". The reports amount to the most formidable challenge by Israelis since the Gaza war to the military's own considered view that it conducted the operation according to international law and made "an enormous effort to focus its fire only against the terrorists whilst doing the utmost to avoid harming uninvolved civilians".
Using human shields is a war crime. Murdering civilians is a war crime. Looting and wanton destruction are war crimes. Using disproportionate force without regard for civilian lives is a war crime. A responsible state which conformed with international law would investigate these offences and put those on trial for violating the laws of war (if only to prevent the international community from doing it). Instead, Israel will deploy its PR flacks and accuse its own soldiers of anti-Semitism for daring to tell the truth about how their military and their government has lost its way.